Show me his pockets and I'll show you the man

' "IT WAS THE body of a man in early middle age," said Inspector Flubbalub. "Well-built, athletic, dressed in immaculately cut tweeds from which the tailor's name had been deliberately removed. In the pockets we found a latchkey, a clean handkerchief, a pocketbook containing pounds 10 in banknotes, and a few odd coppers in change. Nothing to tell us." '

Shut up! Shut up, Inspector Flubbalub! Shut up, mute testimony of unknown dead person! You make me sick, you and your genre! Where's the reality? Where the little stuff? Bang me on the head and shove me in the river and you'd have a different tale on your hands, Inspector so-called Flubbalub.

"It was the body of a man of uncertain age," you bastard. "Rather hard to tell, actually, since he clearly never took care of himself at all. Athletic? Nuts to that. More a question of running to seed faster than a rip-tide, dressed in immaculately cut tweeds in which the tailor's name was still clearly visible, next to the tailor's final demand, still unopened in the breast pocket. A search of the pockets also revealed the following:

"A Sony ICD-70 digital recorder containing 15 minutes of vituperation, complaint, missed appointments, ill-formed grudges, fatuous observations of life, and the telephone numbers of houses of ill-fame.

"A 'Sensa' ballpoint pen in an effeminate shade of bronze-'n'-champagne, with a squidgy membranous finger-grip like an ill-used breast implant. Part of a mobile telephone belt-clip, a packet of Dunhill International filter cigarettes, a packet of cheap Turkish cigarettes, Rizla liquor-ice papers, a tin of snuff, a Zippo lighter and a pipe-cleaner. From this we deduce the man was, or may at some time have been, a smoker.

"A silk handkerchief, reeking of old scent. An electric-storm-in-a-bottle, a cylindrical balloon-like object, some four inches long and filled with indeterminate fluid, presumably for rolling along the desk-top in order to relieve stress. An inch-high white plastic Scottie on a string lead. A cuff-link. A piece of fudge. A rubber-frog key-ring. A yellow pocket torch in the shape of a trout. A pencil-sharpener. A green fluorescent highlighter pen. A pink fluorescent highlighter pen. An empty fluorescent highlighter pen.

"Brochures. Brochures for Canon autofocus cameras, Leica cameras, high- speed modem cards, antiquarian booksellers, coffee-blenders, perfumery suppliers, telephone answering machines, health clubs, language schools and suppliers of dirty videos. A blue plastic clockwork penguin. A garishly coloured pottery Mexican ashtray, also in the form of a fish.

"Unopened mail (threatening) from the Inland Revenue, all the relevant utilities, various solicitors, disgruntled women, outraged men, postulants, duns, stalkers and nuff-nuffs.

"A single surgical glove. A half-eaten tube of Rennies. Codeine tablets. A nose-hair trimmer. A small notebook containing remarks such as 'He is not, of course, a dwarf' and 'Apologise' and 'Bog roll, light bulbs, shaving cream, dual time-zone Swiss chronometer, green snakeskin Gucci shoes, check why cash-card rejected by machine' and 'Column about irritating proliferation of little stuff'.

"Other little stuff, too pointless to enumerate."

So: is it me? Or is everyone like this? Are you like this, your life gradually overwhelmed by Little Stuff? How is your house, the pockets of your clothes, the interior of the fancy Texier leather sac homme you bought because French-men look so elegant with them but you just look like a poof? And how does it get there? How does one end up with 23 pairs of spectacles, 17 jackets, six drawers devoted to T-shirts, enough un- dealt-with paperwork to keep an entire army of clerks busy for six months, key-rings, cables, floppy disks, pickle-grabbers, Action Men, stuffed bison, disintegrating books, unwearable shoes, Mason jars, novelty egg cups, cappuccino machines, six-hole industrial paper-punches, do I need to go on? Do I?

What bothers me, perplexes me, is where it all came from, and why. I had a letter from a trusted intimate the other day, denouncing me as a hollow materialist, and of course I rang up and bellowed down the telephone about the sheer bloody injustice of the accusation. And, once I had put the telephone down, I turned back with a sigh of relief to wondering whether what I really wanted was the commemorative marine-style wrist chronometer or the less butch, more subtly rugged silver-cased one, and which would say more about me, and indeed which would say more of the things I want to be said about me, if you see what I mean. Does that make me a materialist? Does the fact that, whenever things go wrong, I go shopping, make me a materialist? Is there the slightest hint of materialism in the fact that, until I have got dressed in the morning, I really haven't the faintest idea what I am like?

Well of course there is. There must be. And it's appalling. All this Little Stuff, all these idiot things which I can't imagine doing without and yet which I long to be rid of: they must serve some deep purpose of which I am unaware, as though somehow, one day, when there are enough of them and when I can no longer get into my house, I will suddenly emerge as a coherent, well-rounded, recognisable Grown Man.

It was not always like this. There was a time - I can remember it, just - when thrift was the thing. But now I cannot imagine it; the notion of not buying something because it is entirely necessary and does one no good at all just seems preposterous. The very fact that I want something (a new Prince of Wales tweed suit, a satellite-based messaging system) seems reason enough to buy one; and the fact that I neither need nor can afford it seems, equally, no impediment at all.

It's all very peculiar and I propose to think it out. I'll need some non-materialist thinking-it-out stuff - a negligently rumpled corduroy jacket, an antique fountain pen, a free-standing ashtray, a rolltop desk and a Gothic house in Highgate - but just as soon as I've got them, I'll let you know the answer.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition